2 killed as nightclub tragedy casts a pall over world swimming championships
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A balcony inside a nightclub in South Korea collapsed early Saturday, killing two people and injuring 16 others, including American and other athletes at the world swimming championships, officials have revealed.
The two victims are believed to be South Korean nationals.
It’s reported that hundreds of people were at the nightclub, located in the southern city of Gwangju, when the collapse occurred next to the athletes’ village.
According to police, the injured include ten foreigners, eight of them athletes who were in Gwangju to participate in the swimming championships.
Among the athletes were three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, a police officer said, requesting anonymity ahead of an official announcement.
He said most had minor injuries, but an American female water polo player required surgery.
The other two Americans — a man and a woman — are also water polo players, the police officer said.
Police said they detained one of the nightclub’s co-owners and summoned three other club officials to investigate whether the collapsed balcony was an unauthorised structure.
“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo.
“Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred at a public club. Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”
One of the American athletes, Kaleigh Gilchrist of Newport Beach, California, suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery at a hospital in Gwangju, said Greg Mescall, director of communications for USA Water Polo.
Members of the New Zealand men’s and women’s water polo teams were also at the nightclub. The men’s captain, Matt Small, described a chaotic scene and said that his team tried to help the injured.
″(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet,” Small said, speaking to New Zealand Radio Sport by phone.
“We did what we could but we couldn’t really do too much. Some of them were pretty dire cases,” he said.
The local organising committee for the world swimming championships said that eight of the athletes attending the event were injured, most slightly.
A statement from the committee said seven of them had already returned to the athletes’ village after minor treatments at hospitals.
The other athlete had a lacerated leg and was to receive stitches at a hospital.
The organising committee said it won’t disclose other personal information about the athletes at the request of their national teams.
FINA, international swimming’s governing body, said in a statement that it was “carefully monitoring the situation and will activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance is provided whenever necessary.”